Children are the world’s future. A happy and healthy childhood is important for children to grow up as healthy adults who thrive, lead happy lives, and can contribute to society at their best.
But exposure to others’ alcohol use in childhood can have a negative effect on children as they grow up. For example, when adults are inebriated it can make children feel uncomfortable and even unsafe. Furthermore, for children, seeing adults use alcohol can normalize the use of addictive, cancer-causing products. That is why there are many good reasons to protect children from exposure to inebriated adults.
A vast majority of Nordic adults agrees – but with differences across the different Scandinavian countries.
A new Nordic Survey shows that most Norwegians think it is wrong to expose children to alcohol inebriated adults.
The study included participants from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. It found that,
- 91% of Norwegians believe that it is wrong to get alcohol inebriated in the presence of children.
- 86% of Swedes think it is wrong to get alcohol inebriated in the presence of children.
- 85% Finns also think it is wrong to expose children to adults’ alcohol inebriation.
- Comparatively, only 69% of Danes think it’s wrong to be alcohol inebriated in front of children.
This shows that Norwegians are well aware of the harmful effects of alcohol, especially when it comes to the effect on our children,” said Ragnhild Kaski, Secretary General of Av-og-til, as per their website [Translated from Norwegian].Ragnhild Kaski, Secretary General, Av-og-til
Parental alcohol problems are known to have negative consequences on children as they grow up. Children suffer from neglect, maltreatment, poor mental and physical health, academic difficulties, and violence perpetrated by adults, often parents, due to alcohol.
According to Josh Connelly, an ambassador for The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa UK), these children are:
- six times more likely to experience domestic violence,
- three times more likely to consider suicide, and
- two or three times more likely to go on to have addiction problems themselves.
However, it is not only being exposed to dependent use of alcohol by parents or other adults that harms children. Even when adults consume what is considered low levels of alcohol use, children often experience anxiety and stress in these situations.
The small changes such as adults laughing and talking a little louder, or hugging a little longer, can be frightening for the children. And this usually happens long before we adults ourselves think we are [inebriated],” said Ragnhild Kaski, as per their website [Translated from Norwegian].Ragnhild Kaski, Secretary General, Av-og-til
This link has been proven in research published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism in 2019.
The study found that even being exposed to low levels of parental alcohol consumption and seeing a parent intoxicated makes children feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
Parents getting intoxicated or using alcohol in front of children can normalize this substance for children. In turn, this increases the risk that they will use alcohol once they grow up, too. One study found that children are sensitive to the alcohol norm at a very young age and they learn the norm from as young as four years. The researchers concluded that this knowledge may put them at risk for early alcohol initiation and frequent alcohol use later in life.
Ms Kaski thinks that the alcohol policies in Norway have made people more aware of their alcohol use, influencing them to use less alcohol and to stay alcohol free in some situations, such as the presence of children.
In Norway, there has long been political agreement that it is important that we as a society have some alcohol-free zones, where alcohol does not necessarily belong,” said Ragnhild Kaski as per their website [Translated from Norwegian].
It probably also means that many people are conscious of [using] less [alcohol] or nothing in some situations, for example in front of children.”Ragnhild Kaski, Secretary General, Av-og-til